I recently had an opportunity to see Indy race car driver Helio Castroneves speak at a conference hosted by Hitachi Consulting. I was hoping that he would share some of his secrets to success - was it cat like reflexes, nerves of steel, a need for speed? What I learned that day is that all of those played a factor - but, the key differentiator was something I never would have expected - the Internet of Things.

The Indy Racing League (IRL) does everything they can to create an even playing field – each car must meet exacting specifications and the drivers that get behind the wheel of an IndyCar have incredibly unique skills that most humans cannot come close to replicating. You will often hear someone say “xyz sport” is a game of inches but, driving an IndyCar at 225 mph on a course with 30 competitors inches away is a sport of microns – it requires a level of precision and decision making that is different than any other sport in the world. So what is it that elevates a driver like Helio from pit row to the winner’s circle race after race?

According to Helio, the most important piece of equipment in the car (other than himself) is the steering wheel. Obviously the steering wheel determines where the car goes – but, in the modern racing world the steering wheel is essentially the control center for the car. Throughout the race telemetry data is collected, analyzed, and displayed back to the driver on the steering wheel. There are over 80 different IoT sensors on a typical IndyCar in addition to the external sensors collecting weather and track data – each one of these sensors is capturing data multiple times per second so the amount of data captured during a race can be overwhelming. Putting the right data in front of the driver at the right time makes all the difference in the world. On his first pit stop in the race at Sonoma (a road race course in California) the team analyzed his performance against the other drivers and was able to isolate that he was downshifting too quickly in turn six which was causing him to lose approximately ¼ of a second to his competitors each lap – once he had that information he was able to change his technique and moved up four spots over the course of the next two laps.

This was my “aha” moment. If an Indy team can capture petabytes of telemetry data, process through that information in the span of minutes to identify the causal factors, then make changes to the car and driver performance during a 4.5 second pit stop and realize a significant change in outcome – then the possibilities for applying these same techniques in a traditional business setting – are almost unlimited!

I left that presentation with a renewed admiration for Helio and his fellow drivers and a renewed conviction that IoT could absolutely drive outcomes in the business world.

Helio – thanks for your help and hope to see you taking many checkered flags in the Hitachi car – enabled by Hitachi IoT!